12th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord teaches us that the real measure of the spiritual merit of our actions are whether those actions are in conformity with the will of God. Some would interpret that as depriving us of any free will or possibility of making decisions for ourselves, but as the First Reading shows us, God works with our decisions, even when they’re bad decisions: Sarai regretted the outcome of her suggestion to her husband that by today’s standards we know to be a bad one, but the Lord sent Hagar back to Sarai with a promise that she’d have a a great son and a many descendants. If God blesses in a bad situation that stemmed from bad decisions, we can only imagine how much he’ll bless us when we try staying united to him and doing what we think would be the most pleasing to him.

If we’ve never really spoken with him in prayer we’ll just be going through the motions. Prayer is not just reciting some words, it is also asking him for the grace to know him and his will for our lives. The solid foundation for the “house” of our lives is the will of God and knowing him. That provides a stability that goes beyond mortgages, health issues, even death itself. When we build on our knowledge of him and his will there’s nothing to fear from any storms in life that may buffet us, even when we’re broke, sick, in a difficult family situation, etc.

Let’s pray today for a deeper knowledge of Our Lord and his will in our lives in order to stay on a solid foundation.

Readings: Genesis 16:1–12, 15–16; Psalm 106:1b–5; Matthew 7:21–29.

Birth of St. John the Baptist

Today we celebrate a solemnity commemorating the Birth of St. John the Baptist. It’s celebrated six months before Christmas Eve because, as Luke tells us in his Gospel, John’s mother Elizabeth became pregnant with him sixth months before the Word became flesh in Mary’s womb (see Luke 1:36). John is the last prophet before the coming of the Messiah, the forerunner who announces and prepares a path for him (as Paul reminds us in the Second Reading), which is why his vocation, from his mother’s womb (as the First Reading reminds us today), starts a little before the Messiah’s.

John’s father Zechariah was incredulous when Gabriel told him he’d have a son and that his son would be the prophet who’d prepare the way for the Messiah (see Luke 1:18-23). For sixth months he’d seen the first part of the angel’s prophecy come true, but only as a mute (or, better said, muted) witness. When we don’t unite our plans to God’s plans we make ourselves silent spectators and his plans continue to move forward either with us or without us. Zechariah gets back on track when an opportunity presents itself to show he was back with the program: Elizabeth wanted to name her son John, and the family was confused by this choice. Zechariah not only seconded his wife’s wishes, but God’s as well, and God provided a sign to back it up: the restoration of Zechariah’s voice, just in time for him to start praising the plans of God and his newborn son’s role in it.

Let’s ask John the Baptist today to help us see where we might be silent spectators regarding God’s plan. What do I think God’s plans are for my life, my family, my corner of the world? And how can I give witness to that plan and second it in my own life? Let’s second God’s plans wholeheartedly, enthusiastically, and joyfully, as Zechariah does today, confident that it will help prepare the way for others to encounter the Messiah.

Readings: Isaiah 49:1–6; Psalm 139:1b–3, 13–15; Acts 13:22–26; Luke 1:57–66, 80.

12th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

In today’s Gospel Our Lord warns us that not everyone is enthusiastic or necessarily open to receiving the Gospel message. Some are openly hostile to the Christian message. Sharing the Gospel requires slow and patient work as well as prudence, and it is not easy, because we imitate Christ, and his earthly ministry culminated on the Cross. It’s a fine line between not shying away from martyrdom and deciding whether sharing something holy and valuable with those who not only don’t appreciate it, but may be openly hostile about it, will really achieve the results we’d hope.

The things of God are both holy and valuable, as represented by the pearl in today’s Gospel. Dogs and swine in the Bible often represent anger, obstinacy, and impurity and represent people who are hostile or impure. Not only will angry, obstinate, and impure people not appreciate holy things or valuable things, but may react violently if such things are offered. Jesus’ teaches us to do to others as we’d hope they’d do to us, and for some souls that is the way to help them draw closer to God: a kindness and consideration that may win them over instead of going straight to doctrine. We have to be on guard against taking the approaches of “dogs” or “swines” either.

Let’s pray that we find and stick to that narrow road and narrow gate Our Lord points out to us and ask him to enlighten us as to the best way to help each soul find them as well.

Readings: Genesis 13:2, 5–18; Psalm 15:2–4b, 5; Matthew 7:6, 12–14.

12th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

The ancient Romans had a saying that no man is an apt judge of himself. We have a legal system, courts, and judges because when we enter into disputes we look for somebody to judge our case with impartiality and objectivity, based on the facts. Even then we know that sometimes justice is not done despite all those efforts, which is why alongside those courts and judges there’s a system of appeals. Our Lord in today’s Gospel reminds us to be on guard against making rash judgments and meting out condemnation. In the Lord’s Prayer he tells us to pray to be forgiven as we have forgiven others. When we let ourselves be drawn into a logic of mutual recrimination and condemnation no one remains unscathed, because so often we too merit condemnation for having judged and condemned another unjustly.

Jesus invites us today to examine ourselves and acknowledge that we have a lot of faults and failings, and we should focus on fixing them before we think of focusing on the faults and failings of others. Our own efforts to be good and holy people will give us an extra dose of objectivity in evaluating others’ actions in order to help them, not just to condemn them. Rash judgments are easily fired off about others in a world of quick and globalized communications. To counter our tendency to judge others rashly, harshly, and quickly we need to be as ready to forgive others as we would hope that they would forgive us. Tempering our judgments with virtue and mercy is the key to not being drawn into a logic of condemnation. It’s the difference between being judgmental and practicing fraternal correction out of concern for the person who has erred.

Let’s pray today for the grace to not get sucked into the blame game and to have a fraternal attitude toward others, especially those whom we feel have offended us in some way.

Readings: Genesis 12:1–9; Psalm 33:12–13, 18–20, 22; Matthew 7:1–5.

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

In today’s Gospel we hear a prayer that has become a part of the Christian arsenal: the prayer of the scared. It is the prayer that tells Our Lord that we’re going under and we don’t understand why he is not doing anything about it when his reputation is going under too, at least in our eyes. In those prayers of the scared we must not forget what happened in today’s Gospel: the danger evaporated and Our Lord showed once again that he is not just our “teacher,” but God, master over all of Creation. He also reminds us of his mastery in today’s First Reading, which is an excerpt from his reply to Job’s chapters of angst and questioning over the trial he was undergoing. Sometimes we expect God’s response and attitude to be just as hysterical as our own, but Jesus responds forthrightly and simply today: the storm is quelled with a few words and the disciples are told that they’re overreacting and lack faith in him.

The disciples, amazed by what happened, ask themselves whether they really knew who Jesus was at all after witnessing a display of such power. We know people by what they do and what they can do, and even though the disciples didn’t have enough faith, Jesus helped them. Faith helps us to more profoundly understand who God is, and that also helps us in those moments where it seems the only faith we muster is squeezed out of us by circumstances that call for the prayer of the scared as an act of desperation. If we strive to live an attitude of faith and a prayer life beyond the occasional prayer of the scared when things get tough, we’ll find we weather our personal storms better in the future and also grow in trusting Our Lord.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us grow in faith and a deeper and richer prayer life.

Readings: Job 38:1, 8–11; Psalm 107:23–26, 28–31; 2 Corinthians 5:14–17; Mark 4:35–41.